A Debate with Destiny: GOP Sends Repeal to the Floor

A Debate with Destiny: GOP Sends Repeal to the Floor

July 25, 2017

When Majority Leader Mitch McConnell woke up this morning, he knew today was about one thing: moving on. Whether that meant moving on to the much-awaited health care debate or moving on to another strategy, no one knew. Halfway through the GOP's weekly lunch, even the senators themselves had no idea how the rest of the day would unfold. But one thing was certain -- the afternoon would be a defining moment for the repeal effort that put Republicans in power.

And in a huge boost to the GOP's morale, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was there to see it. Despite his own health care scare, the Arizona leader made the long trip to D.C. to join what he hoped would be history in the making. "Many of us have waited literally years for this moment to finally arrive," Senator McConnell said, "and at long last, it has." With McCain on deck, the Republicans did what seemed impossible only a few days before -- voted to proceed on the debate that millions of American people have been waiting for.

After days of uncertainty, common sense ultimately prevailed, and by the narrowest of margins, the Senate agreed to press forward on a rollback of Obama's failure of a health care law. "Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted," said a Hill staffer. "You have to have a clarifying vote." And Americans got one. In the end, only liberal Republicans Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) defied constituents, voting to end the discussion before it began. Despite having fair warning about Collins's defection, fellow Republicans could only shake their heads. "It's inexplicable to me why anyone -- including Democrats -- wouldn't vote to allow us to debate the bill and offer amendments," Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) told reporters. After all, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pointed out, the motion to proceed is the logical place to start fixing the measure's problem areas. "Any senator can introduce any amendment that he or she wishes ... that's the way the process works." Obviously, Collins and her Democratic friends would rather obstruct the conversation than further it.

Meanwhile, everyone in D.C. agreed that the vote was a turning point -- but to what, no one was sure. "What are we proceeding to?" Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) asked. That's been the million dollar question over the last few weeks, as leadership see-sawed between the 2015 repeal and the newer repeal and replace plans. As far as pro-lifers are concerned, both options moved the ball forward on the movement's biggest concerns: defunding Planned Parenthood and guaranteeing that taxpayers weren't footing the bill for elective abortion in the premium tax credits.

That push hit a speed bump late Friday, when the Senate parliamentarian gave an initial thumbs-down to the language on both. As the chamber's referee, she hinted that the text was too policy-heavy, a big reconciliation no-no. Under the expedited process McConnell is using, every piece of the bill has to be budgetary in nature. Conservatives, who were already working on a contingency plan, didn't panic. As Senator Mike Lee's (R-Utah) office pointed out, "The parliamentarian ruling Friday was preliminary. They can rewrite it to save it."

And rewrite it they will. "We think that the news on the ruling raises some concerns," FRC's David Christensen told The Hill, "but I think we're hopeful that pro-life senators are working through ways to ensure that funds don't continue to be used in the mandatory programs for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood ... and trying to think through ways to ensure that tax subsidies are not going to be subsidizing abortion coverage," he said.

One of those possibilities is redirecting the premium credits through programs that are already subject to bans on taxpayer-funded abortion, like the Children's Health Insurance Program. While conservatives huddle on some creative workarounds, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) tried to reassure everyone that Republicans aren't abandoning the pro-life provisions. Telling reporters that conservatives had already been through this in 2015, Thune seemed unruffled. "Some of it is just restructuring stuff, getting feedback and interacting with the parliamentarian to find out what's the best way of doing it."

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

It's Deja Vu All over Afghan

July 25, 2017

Call it a wardrobe malfunction. But when the Pentagon spent $28 million on the wrong camouflage uniform, Defense Secretary James Mattis wasn't laughing. In a decision that goes back to 2007, a new report shows that the Pentagon flushed millions down the drain on a woodland pattern for Afghan soldiers -- when "forests cover only 2.1 percent of the country's total land area." Inspector General John Sopko didn't mince words about the decision, which may jeopardize the lives of thousands of our allies. "I mean they're walking around with a target on their backs," he said, frustrated. Although a large share of the blame rests with the Afghan minister who supposedly picked the material, Sopko says the U.S. had the final sign-off.

"Are we going to buy pink uniforms for soldiers and not ask questions?" he blasted. "That's insane. This is just simply stupid on its face. We wasted $28 million of taxpayers' money in the name of fashion, because the defense minister thought that the pattern was pretty. So if he thought pink or chartreuse was it, would we have done that?" The uniform flap is now front and center in Congress, where both chambers are debating military spending. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) insisted the guilty parties at the Pentagon "seem to have lost sight of their common sense." An angry Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) vented, "[This] makes you smack your head in frustration. It's a prime example of wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and we've got to get to the bottom of how this happened."

If McCaskill is so worried about taxpayer dollars, where was she when fellow Missourian Vicky Hartzler (R) tried to save taxpayers billions in social engineering? For all the outrage over Afghan fashion, 214 members of Congress -- including 23 Republicans – have no problem forking over $3.7 billion so that our troops could try on a new gender. People from both parties raced to sign a check for free sex reassignment surgery -- despite being 132 times more expensive than these uniforms. That's the real "affront to taxpayers." At least you could make the case that providing uniforms, however misguided the selection may have been, is a legitimate military expense. Transgender "therapy," on the other hand, is a completely elective "treatment" that has nothing to do with the military's mission -- except crippling it. Still, people from both parties are tripping themselves to call out the Pentagon for the "embarrassment" caused by the Afghan uniforms, while the expense of Obama's transgender policy is ferociously defended by the Left.

Secretary Mattis, meanwhile, fired off his own letter to military leaders, insisting that "Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur." Does that mean he's ready to roll back the ridiculous push to finance the cosmetic surgery of the gender-confused? After all, as Mattis says, this report shows how "if we let down our guard, [we] can lose focus on ensuring [the troops'] safety and lethality against the enemy." Surely, this push to appease LGBT activists qualifies. The bottom line is that the Pentagon should be focused on making the military tough -- not "tolerant". And the country agrees. Only 23 percent of the American people agree with the push to add more Chelsea Mannings to the ranks.

"Rather than minimize this report or excuse wasteful decisions, I expect all DOD organizations to use this error as a catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices -- and to take aggressive steps to end waste in our Department." What could be more wasteful than diverting billions of dollars away from warfighting to the sex changes of troops who are unfit to serve in the first place? Good question. One we hope President Trump will answer -- and soon.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Dems' Better Deal a Raw Deal for Voters

July 25, 2017

They've had nine months to think about it, but Democrats are still clueless about what cost them the election. In April, they proved how little they'd learned, walking back an official DNC endorsement when they discovered their mayoral candidate was pro-life. That hard ideological line didn't play well with voters in Nebraska -- any more than it resonated with the American people the previous fall.

Despite the tongue-lashing from Democrats who want to roll back the party's over-the-top extremism on things like abortion and religious censorship, party bosses like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) seem intent on following the same failed path that cost them the White House. In a desperate attempt to reboot their movement, the duo unveiled what they hoped would be a new chapter in Democratic messaging with their "Better Deal" vision for America. "When you lose an election with someone who has, say, 40 percent popularity, you look in the mirror and say what did we do wrong?" Schumer said, speaking on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. "And the No. 1 thing that we did wrong is... we didn't tell people what we stood for."

Actually, Schumer is mistaken. The problem is that Democrats told the people what they stood for -- and it disgusted them. From her shameless support of taxpayer-funded abortion to her elevation of groups that illegally sell baby body parts, Hillary Clinton was determined to make November's election about an extreme social agenda that's increasingly out of touch with women. And she paid dearly for it. With Planned Parenthood cheering her on, Clinton rushed to embrace the "abortion-ization" of the Democratic Party without any regard to the political consequences. Which, on November 8, were many.

For the first time in history, the DNC platform called for overturning the Hyde and Helms amendments, demanding that federal taxpayers fund abortion-on-demand at home and abroad. (Not only did DNC leaders want abortion to be a routine medical procedure, they wanted Americans to pay for the entire world's!) That in itself was a crystalizing moment for the country, which could only marvel at the sharp contrasts between the two parties. Then, there was the eight-year legacy of faith-based hostility, which the Left seemed intent on continuing -- along with a side helping of LGBT radicalism that culminated in the president opening school bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers up to kids of both genders.

"The focus starts on economic issues," Democrats said. "That's where the American people are hurting." But the economy isn't where the Left lost voters -- values are. Calling half the country a "basket of deplorables" for their conservative roots, liberals proved they were anything but the tolerant party they claimed to be. Ultimately, the agenda went off the rails, and Midwest voters didn't stick around for the crash. If you ask the Democratic base in the Rust Belt, they'll tell party bosses exactly where they went wrong. In the aftermath of the election, local party chairmen and union bosses were repulsed by the direction of the campaign. "Look, I'm as progressive as anybody, okay? But people in the heartland thought the Democratic Party cared more about where someone else went to the restroom than whether they had a good-paying job," Ohio's David Betras complained. As even the Washington Post pointed out, "The local chairman feels very strongly now that Clinton could have won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan if she had just kept her eye on economic issues and not gotten distracted by the culture wars."

Persuading the American people that the Democratic Party has changed will take more than a pizza slogan. But don't take our word for it. Even the Left is mocking Pelosi and Schumer's campaign. MSNBC's Chris Jansing mocked the Democrats' new message -- "better jobs, better wages, better future," insisting it "doesn't roll off the tongue." According to Breitbart, "She agreed with cr itics that the Democrats' new message also does indeed sound like 'the better ingredients, better pizza' slogan that Papa John's Pizza uses." Meanwhile, the GOP had a field day with the strategy, even plastering Pelosi's face on pizza boxes. Making matters worse, MarketWatch calls the idea a "dud." "Democrats will have to do better than this if they want a hit with American voters," analysts said.

Step one? Rejecting the failed social agenda that got them here in the first place.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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